Administration no longer interested in breaking up Microsoft

Thursday, September 6, 2001

Associated Press WriterWASHINGTON (AP) -- The Bush administration, reversing the Clinton White House legal strategy against Microsoft, told the software manufacturer Thursday it no longer seeks to have the company broken up.

The department also said it will not pursue the bundling issues in its protracted antitrust suit against the software giant.

The agency is taking these steps to obtain "prompt, effective and certain relief for consumers," it said in a press release.

The release follows a judge's order for the two sides to produce a joint status report by Sept. 14.

The government told Microsoft that it does not intend to pursue a breakup and will drop the bundling issue to "facilitate consultations" in the joint report, the department said.

The about-face wasn't totally unexpected. At the time of his confirmation hearings to be attorney general, John Ashcroft hedged when asked repeatedly by senators about the government's commitment to pursuing the lawsuit against Microsoft.

Ashcroft for the most part said that was among a host of issues he would need to review.

On Thursday, his department said that since an appellate court agreed that Microsoft illegally maintained a monopoly over the market for operating systems, the government "believes it has established a basis for relief that would end Microsoft's unlawful conduct, prevent its recurrence and open the operating-systems market to competition."

Pursuing the tying claim would only prolong the proceedings, the department said.

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